Will my baby be more attached to his child care provider than to me

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If you find yourself feeling jealous of other adults who share the care of your baby, it may help to know you are not alone. Most parents, at one time or another, feel concerned that their baby may become more attached to a caregiver than to them. As a new parent, you may want to do everything for your baby—and do it better than anyone else. But it sometimes seems that other people know more than you. Your mother-in-law may comfort your baby by singing wonderful baby songs that you don't know. Your husband may hold your baby in the air and make him giggle in a way he never does with you, or your wife may seem to know exactly how to comfort your baby while you are just beginning to figure out what to do when he is upset.

Sharing the care of a baby you love so deeply is not easy; yet as a working parent, you do it every day. And that can give rise to a dilemma: you want a caregiver who is loving and caring, but you worry your child might love the caregiver more than you.

No one can take your place

Parents are the most important people in children's lives. No one can ever take your place because of the special love you feel for your baby and he feels for you. It's as if you and your baby's relationship is a special song whose tune will reverberate throughout your lives. Its notes are made up of the millions of tiny interactions you share, such as your smiles and the "tickle the tummy" game you both love to play. Its rhythm is a unique blend of your individual tempos.

Your baby needs you to be "crazy in love" with him, the way that only a parent can be. The way you love everything about him— the dimples in his knee, his crooked grin, how his fingers open and close when he nurses—helps him feel good about himself. This special kind of deep love and involvement is a gift only you can give.

The caregiver's role

Your child's caregiver has her own important role in your child's life and she may develop a deep bond with him. Aside from caring for and nurturing your baby when you can't be with him, there are special things she can offer you and your child because of her position of relative objectivity. For example, because her identity isn't so closely linked with your child's, she may not be as anxious about the fact he is taking longer to sit up than his cousin or the baby next door. She may know, from seeing lots of other children the same age, that children develop at their own rates.

Her distance allows her to step back and give your child the space and time he needs, and she can help you do the same by sharing her wisdom about your baby's growth and development.

Knowing that the caregiver has her own place, separate from yours— and different from yours—is very important in helping you to deal with any jealousy you may feel. A warm, loving environment in which to leave your baby is actually just what you were seeking when you made your child care choice.

The factors that make up quality child care include:

• Fewer children per adult

• Smaller group sizes

• Loving, committed, expert care providers

• Varied and stimulating activities

• Strong parent-provider communication

• Positive approach to discipline

• Safe, child-friendly space

• Low staff turnover rate (at centers), long-term commitment to providing care (individual providers)

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